back to article Ahem, Amazon, Google, Microsoft... Selling face-snooping tech to the Feds is bad, mmm'kay?

The campaign against Uncle Sam's use of facial recognition stepped up a notch this week: scores of rights-warriors have urged Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to cease selling the panopticon tech to the US government. "Companies can't continue to pretend that the 'break then fix' approach works,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and …

  1. Corporate Scum

    The last two paragraphs are key

    The issue, and the fight, is to regulate the use of these technologies to ensure any government use is just, transparent, and accountable.

    The strategy of going after suppliers like Amazon and Microsoft by using their civilian business as leverage will only push the government into using dedicated companies, directly funded from DARPA, and working from the shadows.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: The last two paragraphs are key

      I'm not convinced that there's a real difference between civilian businesses working in the shadows and DARPA-funded businesses working in the shadows.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: The last two paragraphs are key

        Neither is there any difference between government and corporate use of the tech.

        In fact corporate use is less accountable and therefore more prone to abuse.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: The last two paragraphs are key

          I agree.

  2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    Fiils a niche

    One population that is currently escaping the surveillance state are those people not carrying personal tracking devices, err, smart phones. Even dumb phones provide a minimal level of tracking via their dumb phone's links with the cell towers. I don't carry anything but no one deems it necessary to talk at me.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Fiils a niche

      "One population that is currently escaping the surveillance state are those people not carrying personal tracking devices, err, smart phones."

      No, those people are not currently escaping the surveillance state. They have reduced their attack surface, which is good, but are still subject to quite a lot of surveillance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They have reduced their attack surface

        arguably, unless they're considered harmless wrinklies, they might have drawn attention to themselves. Young, living in a town or city, yet no FB account, no instagram, no whatsapp, NO MOBILE?! This calls for a little more probing...

      2. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: Fiils a niche

        "They have reduced their attack surface, which is good, but are still subject to quite a lot of surveillance."

        And becoming the odd ones out in society will subject them to more scrutiny and surveillance as a result. A lose lose situation.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    This is a nice goal

    But they will acquire this tech from someone. If Boeing or SRI provides it instead of Google or Microsoft, they still get it. Maybe it won't be as mature, but the DoD has an effectively unlimited budget so they can drive semi trucks full of cash up to their loading docks for as long as is required for them to meet the DoD's needs.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: This is a nice goal

      Then let the likes of Boeing and SRI supply it. There's no need for others to get their hands dirty.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: This is a nice goal

        The point is not that they might as well give up and provide the systems, but that the course of action of contacting each company that plans to make the system available is not going to result in a successful privacy-respecting situation at the end. After delaying the thing for a few months, the system will come into existence anyway. You instead have to do something about the desire by those in power to have such a system running, either to convince them that it is not good (good luck) or to instate regulations in place that make the system better for privacy when they do eventually build it (again, good luck). Simply playing whack-a-mole with the businesses that are thinking of providing it won't work very well because eventually someone who doesn't care about the petitions will come along.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: This is a nice goal

          So if, as you imply, stopping this is borderline impossible, then it makes sense to at least be able to convince some companies to not play along. I do need to some companies that I'm OK with doing business with, after all.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: This is a nice goal

            Perhaps an analogy would help. You are in a boat, which is leaking. The hull is weak, so new leaks are going to form soon. You could spend all your time patching every small leak you see. That is like going to each company and trying to stop them; it will help for a while, but it won't solve the problem. Bigger leaks will form, and you will sink. Instead, you should plug the leaks that are a major problem right now, but put as many people as you can on either strengthening the hull so the leaks stop or sailing the boat to a place where it is safer to be after your boat sinks. That would be like trying to pass legislation about the tech, either making it illegal to use or putting restrictions on it. You may have a lot of trouble actually getting that to happen, but a very low probability of something working is better than a guaranteed bad outcome after a delay that will probably not be very long.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    In other news...

    Sales of Donald Trump face masks have increased by 100%.

    Several states controlled by democrats will make wearing masks like this legal.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon didn't respond / Google declined / A Microsoft spokesperson promised

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil = good for business.

    1. hellwig Silver badge

      Re: Amazon didn't respond / Google declined / A Microsoft spokesperson promised

      You and they forgot the fourth monkey: do no evil. Wait, haven't we heard that from someone?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_wise_monkeys#Variations

  7. Jtom Bronze badge

    Sounds like a business opportunity to me. Research exactly what features facial recognition programs key on, and what type vision systems they use. Sell make-up that is not noticeable to the average person, but screws hell out of facial recognition. A realistic ear cover that slightly changes the ear’s shape. Light polarizing make-up. Assessories with small laser diodes that transmit brightly in IR. Whatever.

    If that’s too techie, corner the market on the old Grouch glasses (you youn’uns can google the man and the glasses).

    Life is but a game, just don’t be the loser.

  8. hellwig Silver badge

    Capitalism and Corporations

    Corporations only exist to make profits. That's literally their only goal. They usually produce a product or provide a service, but that's just a means of gaining profits.

    So of course Amazon, Google, and Microsoft will take on these tasks, the governments are paying after-all.

    Why do these companies bother doing business in places like China in the first place? Money. There's money in China and they want it. There's no universal law that says every company must operate everywhere. Google could just as easily leave the Chinese search engine business to Chinese companies, and not bother with the hassle of filtering their results. But if someone is going to make money off of search, it's going to be Google (according to Google).

    So condemning a corporation for seeking profits goes against the very nature of capitalism. You might as well condemn the Sun for shining.

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